Tea (Makes me Human Again) (And Elephants)





“It’s locked.”

“But there’s a key in it.”

“But it’s bolted from the other side.”

“Bolted?” I turn the key, push, push, shove.. “I don’t like this.”

“I’m not going to be able to sleep, if I don’t get water.”

“There’s a little.”

“Not much.”

“For brushing our teeth.”

“I’m not going to be able to sleep.”

“You have your iodine?”

“Yes, but it takes four hours.”

Me, pushing at the door again–“What if there was a fire?” muttering.

What I am not liking is that for some reason our host (it turns out it was probably one of his sons, acting inadvertantly) has bolted (from the other side) the only door that leads off of this house’s main balcony. This is also the balcony that holds the only entrance to our room. Meaning, because we are on the second floor, that the only way we could get out, if needed, would be to jump off the balcony, hitting, in this darkness, who knows what on the way, but concrete, most likely, at the end.

And we thought we had another, full, bottle of water.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have given that bottle to those Americans,” I gripe, mainly because we had encountered them in a few hours off their cruise. (Meaning that they could have gotten their own damn water.)

‘I got another bottle,” my daughter says.

But whatever that bottle was is now empty.

We have in the luxury of working wifi stayed up well beyond our host. We are essentially locked in our room, well, our room and its balcony. And the iodine tablets, which my daughter sets about finding in our luggage, will take four hours. And, well, our dinner was delicious but Indian food is rather salty, plus I have to take my malaria tablet. (Meaning anti-malaria tablet.)

Which means too that there are flies in the ointment of paradise. Big flies as the night goes on and something about a malaria pill taken without water at midnight swells up my throat and tightens my chest.

Very hard in other words to sleep, though the room is cool, comfortable, though my daughter does drop off at last, though the iodine tablets are busy doing their thing (which even at about 4:30 or 5, I find myself not trusting.) The main thought I hang onto — our host’s promise of a thermos of tea made available well before breakfast.

I get up with a headache and still-taut throat to get it – it is chai – tea and milk brewed together–and after three or four cups plus the host’s apology re the bolted door –we overhear some barked words at one of his sons – I am feeling somewhat human again.


it is what this place is all about. Munnar. Now home of Tata Tea Plantations (and several others.) Originally, a main site of the East India Company.

We have not yet been to the Tea Museum so I don’t know much about the history of it all, but there is one big fact we have picked up over the course of the day. Tea is an incredibly beautiful plant. The individual bushes segment the mountainsides in a mosaic of brilliance. One feels caught in a honeycomb of green, a catacomb of green (if catacombs could, like bellybuttons, come in “outies.” And verdigris.) (One other side effects of the malaria pills by the way is brain fog. This is also one i am positive that I am suffering from. Outies????)

The mountains themselves are beautiful. Old mountains with those eccentric shapes worn by multiple eons – vertical loafs and straight up points, and because they’ve risen fairly dramatically from sea level (I guess), and because we are in the very beginning of the rainy season, misted. (Like my brain.)

I am drinking more chai right now after a day zooming and walking among the plantation mountains with a super sweet and protective, but rather bossy, driver tour guide. Two women traveling need help he thought, and definitely tried to give it, though his English was not so great – “Are you from Munnar?” I asked. “No problem.”

But he glared mightily at any one who made brassy comments to us during the day, such as “from which country?” “Nice brassiere.”

And smilingly took us up and down various parts of the mountains. Bought us a passion fruit and a chico, warned us repeatedly bad bathrooms (making a growling noise to describe the smells), was very careful to hold my arm in a truly helpful way on the rough parts and offered, laughing, to carry me up the steep. Stopped to point out these incredible treed bee hives, and monkeys, and most importantly, four wild elephants. (It is really unusual to see wild elephants, and a small crowd had gathered by the roadside. )

Admittedly, I have a thing for elephants. But there is something that would move anyone, in seeing them flapping their ears in the bright greenery.

Yes, the side of the road where we stood was super-littered (it is an Indian roadside.)

Still. Elephants. Wild. The driver too was thrilled; it was impossible not to be thrilled; it was impossible not to look down at them and not feel some deep thankfulness that such animals ear-flappingly exist, even in a place as crowded and cultivated as this one.

“Lucky men,” our driver kept saying after we got back into the car, turning in his seat to point at us.


Above a couple of pics of the tea plantations, the view from “Top Station”, our very thoughtful driver, the wild elephants. My iPhone, which I am using as my only camera on this trip, only caught two.

PS – the tree frogs and what my little ten year friend assures me are squirrels are hooting like crazy right now. He is drawing rockets, me winged elephants, and now he’s gotten into the flying elephant game, only his elephant has a rocket instead of wings on its back. I include our joint drawing too.

PPS – sorry everything is so long and that I can’t seem to write wonderful little poems that pass on the feel. I am blaming it on the malaria pills.

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7 Comments on “Tea (Makes me Human Again) (And Elephants)”

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    I love the ‘outies!’ Not only made me laugh, but was actually an excellent(if bizarre) poetic simile. Being bolted into one’s room at night might be a blot on any paradise, but I am thrilled for you re: the elephants. The rockets v wings drawings really illustrates the difference in genders well, though of course, one shouldn;t stereotype–still boys do seem to love things that go boom, and girls more drawn to whooshing. I sympathize on the malaria pills–my back pills have a similar effect, relaxing not just my back, but my brain into mush. Thanks for sharing the words, and the pictures–the tea is just gorgeously green and the patterns are amazing.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. Hard to show. We saw tea workers – huge plastic bags of the stuff either on their head directly or tump lines, but not the kind of thing I feel so comfortable taking pictures of. They work with these kind of odd scissor baskets that have the basket affixed to one side of the blade.

      I have to say that I thought of you frequently today as the flowers are really quite wondrous and they seem to have a very good climate for them – sun, cloud, rain, mist. The place we are staying is a rose nursery, but many places have really gorgeous flowers and lots of parts of the tea plantations are bordered by some kind of pink flowered hedge. Many Eucalyptus trees also. Of course, litter. It’s kind of awful that there will be these beautiful places with so much litter around the edges, and people even picnicking right on top of it. Just so strange to our sensibility. k.

  2. janehewey Says:

    You reacted far more serenely than I re. the bolted door. Having a bit of a phobia with that, I may have screamed until unbolted.
    I enjoyed your transition to tea and the dive into its beautiful physicality. I love tea and my mouth waters for the chai. Tears came to my eyes just reading about the elephants. I have an irrational reverence for them. Your pictures are very good.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. It is very interesting to me that the hotel people really didn’t seem to understand my insistence that it was a problem, but I think that many Indians do not have the sense of possible risk that Americans have – certainly, they couldn’t drive the way they do if so! k.

  3. claudia Says:

    i can understand the terror of being locked in…there was sth. wrong with my bathroom door in rome and i took a shower and then was locked in naked in the bathroom.. i was bathed in cold sweat after a while just from the panic (no window, no one close by) finally i opened the door like james bond would’ve…ha.. enjoying your travel reports k.

  4. i’d have gone mad!

  5. How scary to be bolted into a house! Poor you … glad you got mega amounts of chai to soothe you.

    I am so enjoying your articles k. And delighted that you saw wild elephants ~ truly wonderful 🙂

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